I have a friend who likes to party. She and her husband like to skinnydip as a tradition in each new foreign place to which they travel. She just got a bike tattoo on her arm this past summer. She has been known to participate in "wear little or nothing" bike rides, or midnight jaunts during special occasions. One of her life's philosophies is to live without regrets and to live freely. Yet, she is a good mother and seems to have a sturdy relationship with her husband whom she does most of the above with. Even though she is atheistic in faith, her child was the one God lined up for my son to be first-good friends with. Two socially awkward lonely homeschool kids who were obsessed with Pokemon. Her son and her household opened their hearts to Cody's differences back then. Thank you, Jesus, still for that answer of friendship and acceptance.
I always tell my friend that she lives my wild side, which I can't or don't want to live. When I read more in Nouwen's book (The Return of the Prodigal Son) this morning, I thought of my lively friend. Nouwen says: "It is strang to say this, but, deep in my heart, I have known the feeling of envy toward the wayward son. It is the emotion that arises when I see my friends having a good time doing all sorts of things that I condemn. I called their behavior reprehensible or even immoral, but at the same time I often wondered why I didn't have the nerve to do some of it or all of it myself" (70).
He then talks about how the "good" and "responsible" son who stayed at home is the one, in the end, who becomes lost when he envies and becomes resentful of his brother, who returns, confesses, and is celebrated. The older son represents those who become frozen in their anger and self-righteousness, the moralists who don't love the person as much as the code of behavior.
Being wayward has its consequences on me, for sure, and typically for others. I know my friend struggles with depression during some of her days. I know I have some regrets. I know that bursts of experience can't often last, although they seem monumental in themselves; yet unless they are good for self and others, harmless so to speak, they often last longer in regret than they ever did in reality (thankfully in some cases). I bet the prodigal son looked backwards with remorse; he still carried the memories of his experience; yet acceptance and forgiveness became sweeter with it.
The older son never had the monumental sweetness of return, and when he beheld it, he did not approve. Can we blame him for his ignorance in the face of remaining good? Probably not, but as Nouwen says "anger and envy" becomes a bondage (70). For him, he is frozen in the opposite of free-flowing love.
And, so an indictment again of those, and ourselves, who don't accept and love, who are tied to codes rather than the openness of the arms of the Father. Envy, pride, and rights are such powerful impediments. May we release these to the wind and embrace. Amen.